35 Years Ago: Todd Rundgren Releases ‘The Hermit Of Mink Hollow’
Todd Rundgren could do it all, and often did. Many a Todd record featured his lone self on all instruments and vocals. His 1972 masterpiece ‘Something/Anything’ was mostly created that way, as was his 1978 piece de resistance known as ‘The Hermit Of Mink Hollow.’
Released in early-April 1978, ‘Hermit’ was heralded as a “return to form” for the pop maestro. After years of prog-esque adventures with Utopia and a wild variety of solo LPs such as the psychedelic jigsaw puzzle that was/is ‘A Wizard, A True Star,’ Rundgren stripped things down to the core on ‘Hermit’ and let the songs shine. Shine they do, in fact, song-for-song, this remains one of Todd’s most cohesive, entertaining and exuberant statements.
Eleven songs clocking in at just over a half hour, this is pristine pop of high order, yet with a lyrical desperation and resolve in some of the songs that have led a few to refer to this as his own ‘Blood On The Tracks.’
Kicking off with the shimmering ‘All The Children Sing’ lets the listener know they are in for a special ride. Joyous is the first word that comes to mind here, and it’s a perfect way to start the album. That joy is quickly followed by the turmoil of ‘Can We Still Be Friends,’ a song that made its way into the top half of the Billboard charts, almost becoming a genuine hit. It, along with some of the other songs, sprang from his recently ended tumultuous relationship with Bebe Buell. The tune was later covered by Rod Stewart and Robert Palmer among others.
It was hardly all drama though, the whimsical ‘Onomatopoeia’ certainly lightens the mood. “It’s the freaking Marx Brothers!” Rundgren said of the goofy little song. Meanwhile, hard-rocking gems like ‘Out of Control’ and ‘You Cried Wolf’ blast through with rock and roll punch. The original LP was divided into ‘The Easy Side’ and ‘The Difficult Side’ after a Warner Brothers executive thought Rundgren’s original running order lacked balance. Todd complied with his own twist on things. “I don’t know what they were talking about” he told Trouser Press magazine upon the LP’s release, “I did it figuring it was their wank and they can think what they want.”
‘Determination’ still ranks as one of his finest pure pop moments, right up there with ‘Couldn’t I Just Tell You’ and ‘Open My Eyes’ while ‘Fade Away’ is the perfect closing number. You can practically feel the sun setting as the song fades out. Elsewhere, soulful ballads like ‘Bag Lady’ and ‘Hurting For You’ round out the menu perfectly.
After the musical gymnastics of Utopia and albums like ‘A Wizard, A True Star’ and ‘Runt’ pushing the boundaries of rock and roll, Rundgren settled into more comfortable terrain on ‘Hermit,’ and fans and critics alike gave it a thumbs-up. “I wasn’t trying to create incredibly new styles,” Rundgren said of the LP in the CD reissue liner notes. “I was trying to come up with simple, accessible but emotionally rich songs and bring it to a logical conclusion.”
As mentioned, Rundgren plays all the instruments here and does all the vocal harmonies. He makes it sound effortless as it all blends together seamlessly and stands as one of the most perfect self-assembled recordings ever made. Ten years on from his recording debut with the Nazz, Rundgren was able to condense all he had learned up to that point and mold it into a near-perfect LP.
Mink Hollow itself, by the way, was the name of the road Rundgren lived on at the time, and where he recorded the album. ‘The Hermit Of Mink Hollow’ made it to No. 36 on the Billboard charts and helped remind the world that Todd Rundgren could write some great pop songs. Go now, and crank it up loud!
Listen to ‘Determination’ from ‘The Hermit Of Mink Hollow’
Listen to ‘All The Children Sing’ from ‘The Hermit Of Mink Hollow’